There’s been a lot of talk about the omission of Michael Owen from the England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belarus but I think it’s a mark of just how good a coach Fabio Capello is.
Capello isn’t afraid of making the big decisions which might mean favouring younger, hungrier players who want to prove themselves at the highest level. It’s a completely different scenario to Steve McClaren’s dropping of Beckham, who is now firmly back in the England fold — not necessarily as a starter, but involved none the less.
Owen has been scoring goals for Newcastle since he returned from injury — five so far this season — but Capello got a great performance from Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney against Croatia, while Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe are in form for a team that has wobbled of late but still seems full of confidence. Newcastle is anything but, and while joining up with the England squad might have been a welcome distraction for Michael, it makes sense to go with the strikers Capello has chosen. If they can’t make their mark against Kazakhstan and Belarus then there will rightly be an outcry and the campaign to recall Owen will begin, but they should all, if selected, prove their manager right.
Owen will be back, he’s only 28 and has a few more seasons in which to break the England goalscoring record. The midfield selection is of more interest to me. Steven Gerrard is back and playing better than ever, but after the Croatia game, what will Capello change? The betting at the moment is that the unfortunate Gareth Barry will be dropped in favour of Gerrard and the Liverpool captain will be paired with Frank Lampard in the centre of midfield. Surely now is the time for two of the Premier League’s top players to prove they can do it in an England shirt on the same pitch. If not, Capello has already shown he won’t shirk from making the big decisions.